How many accidents happen on the amusement rides every year? Seven recommendations to reduce the risk of accidents on amusement rides.
THE ACCIDENTS ON THE AMUSEMENT RIDES
by Enrico Fabbri
We are always struck and sorry when we see a serious accident on amusement rides. My first thought always goes to the victims and their families but, immediately afterwards, I try to understand what happened, what are the causes and what could be done to prevent it.
I have been in the amusement ride sector for over thirty years, I have always paid close attention to what was happening. At the beginning I followed the accidents of the rides built by my family and then also those of the other manufacturers, limited to what was possible to know from the available information.
For those people who want to know more, to know my point of view, please continue reading.
How to stay updated on what happens?
Nowadays it's easy to get updates about the most important incidents happening in the world. In fact, there is a Facebook page “amusement ride accidents” created by an enthusiast in 2012 and which today has over 17,000 followers. The managers of this page constantly monitor the news available on the internet and relating to accidents at the rides, then publish them with a brief summary of the facts.
Clearly this page only publishes events that have had a big media impact. The authors of this page believe that publishing these news can help make the rides safer.
Analyzing what they published during the year 2019 we realize that an accident happens on average per week.
How many accidents happen every year?
If we want to have a clearer overall picture we must carefully read a report written by Kathryn Woodcock in 2019 and published on the site sciencedirect.com, which we attach below.
The research was carried out in a scientific manner: they identified all the news of incidents available on the internet over the course of a year; they read and analyzed what they wrote and then extrapolated the statistics. This article contains only some interesting data and we invite you to read it completely for details.
Over the course of a year, 182 accidents were reported to passengers of rides around the world. This number does not include another 14 accidents (6 of which fatal) to workers during the phases associated with assembly / dismantling and maintenance activities, and another 63 events of interruption of operation without consequences for people.
37% of these accidents are related to classic rides (such as rides for adults and for families); 11% are related to roller coaster rides. 52% of accidents are related to passenger-driven (non-motorized) rides and adventure rides. We can therefore deduce that only 87 incidents indicated in the report are linked to rides in our sector.
Where were these incidents located?
In first place in Latin America with 41 accidents, in second place in North America with 31 accidents and lastly in Europe with 26 accidents. We can therefore deduce from this report that there are fewer accidents on the rides in Europe than in other geographical areas.
How many of these accidents happened to mobile (traveling) rides?
In first place in Latin America with 30 accidents, second place in North America with 15 accidents and finally in Europe with 8 accidents. We can therefore deduce from this report that fewer accidents occur on mobile rides in Europe than in other geographical areas.
Are the rides statistically safe?
Overall, the number of accidents in the amusement ridel sector is very low when compared with other industrial or transport sectors. In fact, on the whole, 3.9 accidents were detected for every million passengers with an incidence of 0.3 serious (or fatal) accidents per million passengers.
The introduction of new technical standards, such as the new version of EN-13814 and ISO-17842, will help to develop greater quality in the activities of manufacturers and operators, we can expect that the number of fatal accidents can fall in the medium / long term .
The causes of accidents
Research indicates that the causes due to the "malfunction" represent 75% of accidents in roller coaster rides and represent 57% of accidents in other types of rides. We believe that "malfunctioning" could mean electrical or mechanical failures (such as fatigue failure).
Medium / large size rides and roller coaster rides are very complex machines, so it is very difficult to accurately determine the actual causes of these accidents. Based on my personal experience I have prepared a list of seven points that can help you reduce the risk of possible accidents to your rides.
(1) The lifetime of an amusement ride
Each electrical and mechanical component has a life span that depends on how it was designed, built and maintained.
While faulty electrical components can easily be replaced with new components, it becomes more difficult when it comes to working on mechanical components.
The metal structure of your ride has a maximum theoretical lifespan that depends on how it was built. The accumulation of stress due to intense work cycles, assembly and transport activities, and finally the effect of corrosion reduce the life of the structure even when maintenance is performed correctly.
Many rides show significant signs of fatigue generally when the age of the rideexceeds 15/25 years depending on the quality of the project and construction. This is only an indicative value, there can be big differences depending on the type of attraction. In these cases it is usually necessary to perform extraordinary maintenance and replace parts of the structure.
(2) Check the documentation
Analyze all available technical documentation. A complete and accurate structural calculation is extremely important. The procedure relating to the quality of construction should be complete with the quality certificates of the materials purchased and the checks of the welds performed.
If the use and maintenance manual of your carousel is very old, it is necessary to carry out a revision integrating any missing parts required by recent regulations.
(3) Identify weaknesses
Carry out your risk analysis and compare it with the one developed by the manufacturer. The failure of which component could endanger passengers or operators? The result of this analysis will be your guide to planning annual checks.
(4) The electrical components
The electrical system of the rides must provide that the failure of any electrical component cannot affect passenger safety. If the electrical system of your ride is very old you will have to proceed with a complete update.
(5) Passenger safety system
One of the most important sections introduced in the EN-13814 standard, in 2007, was to define how passenger restraint systems should be design based on the acceleration experienced by passengers during the ride’s operating cycle.
If you have a ride that is more than 10/15 years old, it is likely that the passenger safety systems are not up to date. We therefore advise you to check all parts carefully with your technician and to make any changes.
(6) Check pins, screws, safety pins
Pins that are relevant to passenger safety or structural integrity must be checked frequently. For example, the axles of the roller coasters must all be checked every year, even if this involves dismantling all the cars.
The screws subjected to disassembly and assembly should be replaced at least every five years. The safety pins must be replaced as soon as they show leaks, and in any case every year.
(7) Checks of welds
Even when a ridehas been designed and built excellently it is necessary to prevent sudden breakages to mechanical parts by checking the welds of the most important components. Welds are usually the weakest parts of a complex mechanical component, which break when they are subject to fatigue.
It is not possible to know how fast a crack can generate a component break, but in the industry it is considered acceptable to carry out checks annually. When necessary, proceed to disassemble every component that hides important structural parts. Greater care must be taken in verifying the structural parts of the passenger car.
We remind you that any modification to important safety components must be carried out with the assistance of competent technicians.
There are many attractions in the market that are more than 20 years old and therefore need extraordinary maintenance activities. These activities are expensive and complex and should be planned over time.
Now let's see what are the most common errors that I found often when talking to different operators.
(A) My ride has already worked for many years without problems
The more years of work your ride has, the more likely it is that some component may fail or break. This is the time to increase controls and not reduce them.
(B) My attraction was made by a good manufacturer
Even good builders can make occasional errors in the production process, which is why all manufacturers recommend annual checks. History teaches us that important accidents have occurred on rides of all manufacturers.
(C) My control activities are sufficient
In many years of experience in this field I have found that most operators do not have sufficient technical experience to deal with detailed risk analysis or to perform extraordinary maintenance. In the same way, I have noticed that many manufacturers also have incomplete knowledge of the rules, which therefore are not correctly applied.
I hope I have clearly explained my opinion on this issue and remain at your disposal for any questions.
Written by Mr. Enrico Fabbri firstname.lastname@example.org
Original date: November 2019
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